Quantum Dots Turn Windows into Solar Panels

While we’re on the theme of photovoltaic (PV) power (which I’ve been fascinated by for more than three decades now), Victor Klimov writes at “Energy.gov” about an interesting PV technology being developed at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico.

The technology is a clear film suitable for coating a window. The film contains quantum dots which are configured to absorb sunlight and reemit infrared (IR). The film acts as a wave guide, channeling the IR to photovoltaic cell along the edges, to generate electricity.

This film could be added to windows (adding a slight tint), allowing the building to generate free electricity with a minimum impact on the building and location.

Figure 4: Colorimetry characterization of LSCs based on CISeS quantum dots. From: Meinardi et al. 2015, cited below.


Klimov explains that quantum dots make this possible because they are tiny “nanocrystals roughly one-billionth of a meter across, or just 10 to 50 atoms wide, quantum dots obey quantum-mechanics laws. That trait gives them properties that can be manipulated in the laboratory.”  (“Can be manipulated in the laboratory” means “we can do black magic”.)

Combine this technology with perovskite-coated roofing an siding, and buildings could move a lot closer to self sufficiency, at least while the sun is shining.


Further reading: some of the underlyng research was published last year in Nature Nanotechnology [1].

(Glancing through the table of contents of this Journal is AWESOME!

Just the first two entries give us a sample of the wonders of the age:

DNA nanotechnology: Nanoscale cable tacking by Hendrik Dietz
Synthetic DNA-labelled polymers can be made to self-assemble on two- and three-dimensional DNA scaffolds in custom routings.

Biosensors: Microcantilevers to lift biomolecules by Gajendra S. Shekhawat & Vinayak P. Dravid
Nanomechanical sensors can now detect femtomolar concentrations of analytes within minutes without the need to passivate the underlying cantilever surface.

And so on!  Nanotech Rulz!)

  1. Francesco Meinardi, Hunter McDaniel, Francesco Carulli, Annalisa Colombo, Kirill A. Velizhanin, Nikolay S. Makarov, Roberto Simonutti, Victor I. Klimov, and Sergio Brovelli, Highly efficient large-area colourless luminescent solar concentrators using heavy-metal-free colloidal quantum dots. Nat Nano, 10 (10):878-885, 10//print 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2015.178

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